Panthers hang tough, denied Sweet Sixteen berth in NCAA


The Sweet Sixteen. Los Angeles. A chance to continue its Cinderella run as the entire country embraced the story that Georgia State men’s basketball had become. All of that was on the line Saturday night in Jacksonville, but the Panthers were defeated by Xavier, 75-67 in the NCAA tournament’s third round.

The loss brings to a close what a history-making season for the team that included a Sun Belt title and a win in the tournament’s second round.

“I told [the players] not to be sad,” Head Coach Ron Hunter said to the media after the game. “What a great week. Unbelievable week. Especially for me, I’ll be honest with you. It was the greatest week of my life.”

Georgia State received a major outpouring of support from fans who made the short drive to Jacksonville to see their team play in the round of 32 vs. its Big East opponent from Cincinnati. Early on, it appeared the Musketeers would run away with the game and cruise its way to Southern California. They led 15-4 early before the Panthers came back, cutting their deficit to as little as two points, trailing 30-28 with under a minute to play in the first half. Xavier took a 32-28 advantage into halftime.

The Panthers managed to pull even with the Musketeers early in the second half, as they tied the game at 38. Eventually second-half shooting for Xavier was the difference. They shot over 80 percent from the field in the second half, spelling defeat for Georgia State.

Final Stats
Georgia State R.J. Hunter: 20 points, 3-8 threes, 6-15 shooting Markus Crider: 10 points, 5-8 shooting Curtis Washington: eight points, 4-5 shooting Kevin Ware: eight points, 3-4 shooting T.J. Shipes: eight points
Xavier Jalen Reynolds: 21 points, 8-9 shooting Myles Davis: 17 points, 5-8 threes Dee Davis: 15 points, 8-9 free throws Matt Stainbrook: nine points, 4-5 shooting Remy Abell: 4-5 free throws

After the game, fans, students, faculty, alumni, and even Atlanta mayor Kasim Reed took to social media, thanking the team for what this season meant to Georgia State and to the city.